In Oman, on the one hand, most men typically wear white thobes to symbolize peace and purity. On the other hand, Omani researchers have also shared that a black dress or black clothing in the country often simply "implies elegance, stylish, and smart[ness]." The women wear black here because the color represents sophistication, elegance, maturity, and rebirth.
Oman is not alone in lifting up black in this way. Some other cultures find the "Arabs wear[ing] the black abiah, which signifies elegance and respect for their culture." In short, black signifies for some: I love my tradition or I love my culture--as well as--I am sophisticated and elegant
MUSIC REQUEST ON OMANI RADIO TONIGHT
This view of the meaning of the color black for Omanis and other Arabs should be an eye opener for Westerners who see black as a color of repression of women, who they interpret as being forced to wear hot black abayas in the desert heat--while the males are allowed and encouraged to wear the cooler white and lighter colors, like beige.
Tonight as I came home from work, I turned on one of the English pop radio stations here in Oman. The Australian-born DJ soon shared, "Now, Rayanna has requested us to play BACK IN BLACK." The classic hard rock tune by Australia's ACDC then began to be heard across the country's airwaves. Immediately the DJ was serving the demand of Omani appeal to the color black.
At firt, as an American, I chuckled to myself. I had imagined an abaya-wearing--or even a hijab-wearing--young Omani female rocker getting down with her friends at hearing BACK IN BLACK being played on Rayanna's--and their--behalf. (By the way, the name Rayann stands for "the doorway to heaven that opens in the month of Ramadan.")
Then my cultural awareness and cultural intelligence kicked in. Of course, the Omani listener would have been listening in that particular moment to that same youthful ACDC Rock Anthem--but with a different set of sentiments.
Black is not necessarily seen here as either something dark or gloomy here in this land. It is not something that only Goths or Bikers wear. It is more likely observed as representing sophistication and elegance or maturity--or perhaps even one's culture.
Perhaps, though,--as I now think about Rayanna's request for BACK IN BLACK--, ... perhaps that Australian DJ here in Oman misread the intent of Rayanna here tonight. Coming from Australia, where ACDC is from, he assumed that the request for BACK IN BLACK was for his home country's band.
However, there is another singer named Shakir, who is still very popular here in the Middle East. Recently, Shakira released her own more femine sounding version of the ACDC anthem. Namely, Shakira--whose family comes from the Middle East-- has repopularized BACK IN BLACK for Oman and for audiences in neigboring lands.
In short, we westerners need to see the colors of black and white not simply as "Black and White"--using the traditions of our own cultures. The fascist movements in Europe and South America of the 20th Century have spoiled the color of black in our eyes--in any case--, i.e. so that we see an Arab men and woman wearing black automatically as something sinister, like we'd view the SS officers of the Nazi era in black and white film.
Don't let visions of black-clad ninjas, black-suited SS agents or Mussolini's henchmen, nor even ISIS shock troops cloud or blind our imaginations of blackness--of other colors, and other cultures, i.e. to fit our pre-conceptions or imaginations of life in other lands and among other peoples here on planet earth.
Whether using an internet's website or in viewing other mass media, WE need to become ever-more cross-culturally literate and emotionally intelligent,
Don't assume colors are the same everywhere. They are not.
Below are some websites and links to check out--just if you want to know how diverse cultural understandings of particular colors rage across the globe in actuality.
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